Convictions are important things. We do not want our children to have minds so open that their brains fall out. On the other hand, certainty is conviction absent humility. Certainty is intolerant. It is absolute. It knows the answers and will not tolerate disagreement. It is inflexible, permanent and anti-intellectual….
It is the demagogues on both the left and the right who are more interested in advancing their private agendas than in explaining and understanding an entire situation or picture. Their perspective is often, “I know what I know; do not confuse me with the facts.”
And while the columnist makes the left/right dichotomy, of course this “don’t confuse me with the facts” mentality is prevalent in other areas apart from the political spectrum as well. ID advocates and young earth creationists frequently espouse this type of thinking; you’ve seen it here in some of the conversations discussing HIV.
Certainty isn’t always a bad thing, of course; I’m certain my kids are mine, as the memory of their birth still remains pretty strong in my mind and they were never sent to a nursery to potentially be “switched” or something. I don’t think this makes me anti-intellectual. But when it comes to other areas, some amount of uncertainty is assumed. This doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up–in science and other areas, rather, we follow where the evidence leads, mindful that “proof” isn’t a concept that works in biology as it does in mathematics.